Review: Citizen Vince
Citizen Vince by Jess Walter
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Darkly hilarious and unexpectedly profound, Citizen Vince is an irresistible tale about the price of freedom and the mystery of salvation, by an emerging writer of boundless talent.
Eight days before the 1980 presidential election, Vince Camden wakes up at 1:59 A.M. in a quiet house in Spokane, Washington. Pocketing his stash of stolen credit cards, he drops by an all-night poker game before heading to his witness-protection job dusting crullers at Donut Make You Hungry. This is the sum of Vince’s new life: donuts and forged credit cards—not to mention a neurotic hooker girlfriend.
But when a familiar face shows up in town, Vince realizes that his sordid past is still close behind him. During the next unforgettable week, on the run from Spokane to New York, Vince Camden will negotiate a maze of obsessive cops, eager politicians, and assorted mobsters, only to find that redemption might just exist—of all places—in the voting booth. Sharp and refreshing, Citizen Vince is the story of a charming crook chasing the biggest score of his life: a second chance.
I don’t think I could have picked a more perfect book to kick off my 2012 year. I know it’s early to say this, but I’m absolutely positively sure that this Citizen Vince is going to end up on my best of 2012 list. After reading The Financial Lives of the Poets, I immediately became a huge fan of Jess Walter. I have a few of his books that were on his backlist sitting on my shelf, but it always seems like there’s another book to read until now.
So what makes this book so incredibly awesome? Well for starters; this really is the perfect book to read during an election year. The book takes place during 1980, an election year between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. Walter manages to highlight the importance of the election and voting, while keeping the story funny, brilliant, and entertaining.
I love the characters in this book! Who would have thought I would be rooting for an ex-convict, who was placed in the witness protection program and makes donuts as his day job, but steals credit cards and sells pot on the side. Vince isn’t suppose to be likeable, and yet somehow, I was rooting for him throughout the book. I loved the characters in this book despite the fact that most of them are mobsters or prostitutes that fall on the other side of the track. I have to give much credit to Jess Walter for making that possible.
Vince had his first juvenile felony conviction at 14 and everything started to snowball from there. He didn’t realize it at the time, but once you’re a convicted felon, you lose the right to vote. He’s never been able to vote before. After he entered the witness protection program though, his right to vote was given back to him and he gets a brand new slate. What follows is Vince’s personal journey towards discovery the importance of voting as he tries to escape the hit man that was sent to kill him. At it’s core is also the question of whether or not someone can really start over? If they deserve the chance to start new and in essence become a ghost and redo life.
Citizen Vince was such a brilliant, funny, and witty book. It made me realize how many of us take voting for granted when there’s people out there who don’t even have the right to vote. And it also made me think about how do you figure out who to vote for. I thought Ronald Reagan brought up a good point during his campaign when he asked, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” It’s something to think about as we will be bombarded with campaigning information in the months to come.
I don’t know if there’s anything else I can say about this book to convince you to read it other than, what are you waiting for?